Keeping Humans From Nature Would Harm, Not Heal

By Fred Pearce in the New Scientist

In the Anthropocene, there is no pristine nature. Even the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo have been cleared by humans in centuries past. What we imagine to be pristine forest is recent regrowth, often deliberately planted.

Nature today is not very natural. The world is dominated by what some ecologists call "novel ecosystems" – partly random collections of species that are far removed from anything remotely pristine, and usually well endowed with invasive species brought in by humans. This is good news. It shows that nature is evolving and adapting to the world we have created.

I believe there is no going back. And I find it surprising that the ecomodernists don't agree. Instead, they seem to be hooked on outdated notions of nature as passive, pristine and only able to prosper apart from us. We cannot have the Anthropocene on one side of the fence and the landscape of the Holocene – shaped by 11,000 years of early agriculture – on the other side.

The ecomodernists should banish their quest for some halcyon vision of rewilding. Of course we need to reduce our footprint, but a "good Anthropocene" will achieve that not by cutting us off from nature but by better integrating us into it. As the world's most successful invasive species, we must take this path if we are to make the best of the age of humans.

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